What Is the Bible’s View?
Have Prophecies About Messiah Been Fulfilled?
THE inspired Hebrew Scriptures (commonly called the “Old Testament”) promise that one day the whole human family will enjoy unending blessings from the Creator. These blessings will be made available through an individual called the “Messiah,” meaning “anointed one,” a descendant of Abraham through King David.—Gen. 12:1-3; 22:18; 2 Sam. 7:12-16; Dan. 9:25, 26.
At Daniel 7:13, 14 the Messiah is described as a glorious king who would come “with the clouds of heaven” and whom “all the peoples, nations, and languages” would serve. (Jewish Publication Society translation, JP) Will this prophecy about the uniting of “all the peoples, nations, and languages” under the rule of the Messiah ever come to pass?
Under the heading “Messiah,” Reuben S. Brookes writes in A Dictionary of Judaism: “Judaism has nothing definite to say on these matters.” But what about the Bible’s view? Have any prophecies of Messiah been fulfilled?
The Bible’s view of this matter is not well known. Why so? The Book of Jewish Knowledge observes: “New ideas, esoteric and mystical, . . . had gradually been infiltrating into Jewish religious thinking since the Captivity began in Babylonia.” The Jewish Encyclopedia adds: “Many foreign elements, moreover, crept in at this time and became part of the general potpourri of imagery relating to the Messiah.” The result was that the Jewish idea of the Messiah now “embodies a multitude of bizarre fantasies which can not possibly be reconciled or woven into anything like a connected picture.” So if a person wants to get a true picture of that “anointed one” of God he must get back to the Bible.
The Bible’s View of Messiah’s Work
The Holy Scriptures teach that the Messiah would have to do some preparatory work to ensure that all mankind would enjoy the blessing of his rule. What type of preparation would this require? If people would really benefit from his rule, God’s “anointed one” would have to provide for removal of the basic cause of so much of earth’s trouble—human imperfection. The Bible calls this imperfection “sin” and shows that we inherit it at conception. King David exclaimed: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”—Ps. 51:7, JP (Ps 51:5, Authorized Version).
Concerning this aspect of the Messiah’s work, Isaiah prophesied: “He was wounded because of our transgressions.” “He bared his soul unto death, . . . he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”—Isa. 53:5, 12, JP.
Does this passage really speak of a Messiah who would suffer and die? Jewish Rabbi Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) admitted: “Yonathan ben Uzziel interprets it in the Targum of the future Messiah; and this is also the opinion of our own learned men in the majority of their Midrashim [a type of Jewish Bible commentary].”
Daniel 9:24-27, too, states that the Messiah would come “to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sin, and to forgive iniquity.” (Da 9 Verse 24, JP) Zechariah 9:9 and Zec 12:10 add that the Messiah would come “lowly, and riding upon an ass” and that people would “thrust him through,” after which “they shall mourn for him, . . . and shall be in bitterness for him.”—JP.
What About the First Century?
When would this part of Messiah’s work be fulfilled? Daniel 9:25 specifies: “From the going forth of the word to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Leader, there will be seven weeks, also sixty-two weeks,” or sixty-nine weeks in all. Jewish authorities, in agreement with the chronological work Seder Olahm Rabbah, point out that these are weeks of years, each being seven years long. So the sixty-nine weeks (7 + 62) would amount to 483 years.
According to Nehemiah 2:1-6 the “word to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem” (not only the temple) went forth in the twentieth year of the reign of the Persian King Artaxerxes Longimanus. When was that? The best authorities indicate that it was the year 455 B.C.E. If we count 483 years forward from that point we arrive at the year 29 C.E.
The Christian Greek Scriptures (or “New Testament“) point out that the Messiah was expected at that period of time. (Luke 2:25, 38; 3:15) Jewish authorities agree with this. Several individuals in the first century C.E. claimed to be the Messiah. But only one appeared in the year 29 C.E. That was Jesus of Nazareth. How do we know that?
The Gospel account of Luke informs us that Jesus’ forerunner, John the Baptist, began his public activity “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,” which ran into 29 C.E. (Luke 3:1) The Bible indicates that Jesus was baptized about six months later, in the fall of 29 C.E. At that time he was “anointed” with God’s spirit in fulfillment of Isaiah 61:1 and began his career as the Messiah or “anointed one” of God.—Luke 3:21-23; 4:16-21.
Daniel 9:26, 27 shows that the Messiah would be “cut off” in sacrificial death three and one half years later, “at the half” of the seventieth “week” of years. This is precisely when Jesus died, in the spring on Passover Day, 33 C.E. (Matt. 26:2; John 13:1-3) The prophecy goes on to foretell that thereafter “the people of a prince that shall come [the Roman legions under General Titus] shall destroy the city [of Jerusalem] and the sanctuary.” (JP) So Messiah would have to be “cut off” before the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple by the Romans in 70 C.E.
Accepted or Rejected?
How would the Messiah be received when he would appear in humility? Isaiah 53:3, 4 (JP) described it in advance: “He was despised, and forsaken of men, . . . and we esteemed him not . . . we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” Why did they act that way toward their promised Messiah, Jesus?
For the same reason that some Jews in the first century accepted and followed others who claimed to be the Messiah. The Book of Jewish Knowledge comments: “Now the extraordinary thing about these first-century claimants for Messianic distinction was that each served as a rallying point for Jewish revolt against Roman rule. Unlike Jesus, . . . the other ‘messiahs’ of that period were, without exception, militant firebrands and patriots.”
So Jesus did not fulfill the nationalistic political expectations of the Jews of his day. However, he did fulfill what the Bible had foretold concerning the first-century coming of the Messiah. This guarantees that all other prophecies of Messiah’s rule as a mighty king will likewise come to pass through him.2